Elyo is an international group that you have probably never heard of. But its equally likely that you have passed through a building or facility it maintains. It turned over 3.2 billion euros last year and it employs over 18,000 people.

Elyo provides design and long-term operation of global energy, fluid and technical service operations for buildings and other infrastructure sites. It prides itself on developing optimised service arrangements that contribute to environmentally-friendly thermal comfort for its client base: industrialists; local authorities; and residential site managers.

Earlier this year its UK arm, Elyo Services, negotiated a contract for 21 million euros with British Airways that emphasised its reputation as a specialist for the O&M – operation and maintenance - of technical installations. The contract is for an additional five-years for the operation and maintenance of the Transfer Baggage Facility at London’s Gatwick Airport. Responsibilities encompass the total operational management of the facility and critical asset maintenance, including software and controls support in addition to the specialised technical maintenance.

Several factors were favourable to the renewal of the contract: In 1999 Elyo Services played a significant role in the co-ordination of the mobilisation of the facility in parallel with commissioning of the installed equipment; Elyo Services has consistently delivered continuous improvements in all areas of the management of the facility; and with its help the facility has improved the Customer’s transfer operation statistics by some 300 percent.

Elyo's history in the UK dates from 1980 and it has recently has taken a number of steps to strengthen its position as a leader in its market. Key developments include :-

- in 2002, the acquisition of the BP energy and utility management services to further develop the key industrial sector business,
- in 2003, the integration of Elyo and Axima Services, including their respective subsidiary companies, to meet the challenges of the building services sector

Today, Elyo has 1700 employees deployed nationally throughout the UK with a turnover of 200 million euros.

Its business is split across two sites in the UK and its IT operations employed servers with direct-attached storage (DAS). The storage performance became abysmal. Business continuity suffered. Backups were taking a long time and data availability between the two sites suffered as well. Senior management said, “Enough!” and took a step back.

It realised that its original DAS deployment did not provide the reliability, scalability and cost-effectiveness required to underpin Elyo’s growth. After investigating the technology options available, Elyo selected Intransa's IP5000 product (reviewed here) with the two sites connected through Cisco switches. The deployment was by a storage networking specialist called Cisilion.

Elyo now has the first end-to-end Intransa IP SAN in Europe. It delivers data for major applications including Microsoft SQL, Exchange and File Services. The IP SAN has a 3-tier distributed architecture, termed IntraStor, which is used to deliver networked block-level storage.

The implementation at Elyo's High Wycombe site did not take long: the initial hardware deployment took three hours; while the iSCSI hosts were installed and configured at the same time as six new servers. The new IP SAN system has a RAID 10 4TB storage array. The controllers present a single virtual IP address as the target for iSCSI hosts, with the connections balanced across dual Gigabit Ethernet interfaces.

Martyn Forbes, Information Technology Manager for Elyo, believes the Intransa IP SAN implementation is needed for the future of the business: "The IP5000 has enabled us to meet all of our key objectives: to deliver a cost-effective, high-performance, highly-available and scalable SAN based on IP technology, which we are familiar with and confident in.”

Forbes here reinforces a point often made; that IP SANS are easier to install and run because they use the familiar and well-understood Ethernet infrastructure.

He went on to say, “It also addresses concerns we have over business continuity.” By this he means the ability of the SAN to ensure the business can continue to run despite major hiccups. It helps provide disaster recovery. He is not worried about IP SANS being new and possibly short-lived: “ The endorsing of the product by Microsoft through the iSCSI target certification programme means the SAN is a future-proof investment, ensuring it will provide ROI to our business for many years to come."

Intransa IP SANS are, Intransa says, the industry's only IP SAN products designed with a patented, fully modular architecture to allow on the fly enhancements to storage capacity, performance and availability. By connecting a new disk enclosure to the controller, the IP5000 can easily add storage without disruption to applications or users. Also, by adding additional controllers the performance can be increased dynamically based on business requirements.

There are now plans to install a second Intransa system at Elyo's Dagenham site, which can be added seamlessly to increase capacity across the business. Intransa’s general manager for EMEA, Paul Klinkby Silver, believes the three main benefits of Intransa’s IP SAN products are scalability, cost and performance.

Roger Paul, MD of Cisilion, offered this thought about IP SANS: " We … are excited by the opportunity for large storage and disaster recovery solutions at a much-reduced price compared to traditional Fibre Channel SAN."